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Strange Actuality Of Surveillance Cameras
2008-08-21

At July 25, 2008 10:00 a.m., a local artist leaded 35 people in a five-hour political art project through Cal Anderson Park, as Slog first mentioned that day. Twenty-five of them will sit around, minding their own business. Another ten will walk around with cameras on their heads. Seven of the 10 camera heads will be equipped with real digital cameras. They'll take pictures of the actors in ordinary scenes. The other three will be deployed around the park. Sound creepy? It should. The project is a reaction to the city's recent implementation of security cameras at neighborhood parks. When taking a look around a public place, one may observe an increase in the use of surveillance cameras. This is partially due to technological advances that have introduced new benefits for businesses and law enforcement agencies that implement video surveillance. Current technology allows an operator to view live surveillance footage from a remote location by transmitting the video over the Internet or through other cables. From the operator's room, digital analysis of the video lets the operator detect intruders, alert authorities of suspicious or violent activity, and possibly identify criminals. Millions has been doled out by the security department on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation every year. Small towns are also getting their share of the money for surveillance to thwart crime and terrorism. It is difficult to say how much money has been spent on surveillance cameras because many grants awarded to states or cities contained money for cameras and other equipment in many countries. Businesses and government buildings have used closed-circuit cameras for decades. Though public support for installing more surveillance cameras in public places, both as a means of fighting terrorism and other crime, appears to exist. The expanded use of surveillance in the name of fighting terrorism has proved controversial in other arenas. privacy rights advocates say that the technology is putting at risk something that is hard to define but is core to personal autonomy. The proliferation of cameras could mean that people will feel less free because legal public behavior -- attending a political rally, entering a doctor's office, or even joking with friends in a park -- will leave a permanent record, retrievable by authorities at any time.  Video surveillance has had privacy activists snarling for years. With the popularity of surveillance cameras on the rise this debate turns towards the system's effect. Since the United States entered the world of global terrorism, surveillance has become a critical issue in the debate as to how the nation can provide for its own security. However, according to a recent report, video surveillance, easily the most popular form of community policing, may not have the desired effect on crime rates. The Questions Raised by Surveillance The report by MSNBC states that the head of London’s surveillance network released a statement that surveillance cameras do little to deter crime. In fact, this issue has been hotly debated in many communities. The issue boils down to several key questions: first, does a camera actually deter crime or simply move it to a place where there is no surveillance? Second, is video surveillance an effective law enforcement tool? Third, are video systems worth the cost when J.P. Freeman, a security market analyst company, projects that 21 billion dollars would constitute the domestic market for these systems by 2010? Does Video Surveillance Affect Crime? In the seven years since September 11th there have been no national research to track video surveillance’s effectiveness, leaving the questions as to its ability to deter open for interpretation. However, many criminals are bypassing the systems’ ability to act as a form of identification by simply wearing masks or keeping their backs to a camera. On the rare occasion new agencies can provide a full picture of a criminals face, it is often marred by lighting or simply the limitations of a camera posted at an odd angle. Conflicting Interests on the Costs of Surveillance In the wake of many cities having to lay off police officers due to decreasing budgets, the reliance on video cameras as a law enforcement tool seems a moot point when there’s no police to respond to the crimes in progress. Manpower was a key issue raised by the Florida Retail Commission to legislation requiring certain businesses to instal security cameras and proper lighting. The Commission’s argument being that surveillance only works when there is a person watching what the cameras see and this takes an officer from the streets responding to crime. Closing words Security cameras are everywhere these days and the reason is quite clear: there is simply no better way to monitor your home or business operations and ensure safety. Although there are many dissenting opinion, every government is sill enlarging the input on the surveillance cameras.

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